My Unique Position
As a researcher starting my PhD journey, observing and reflecting for myself and my research, it’s amazing how I’m starting in a unique time and place of my life.
But being an Australian Muslim Woman with hearing loss, means I have many roles to balance in my life and I am in a unique position.
My Role as a Muslim
As a Muslim in the holy month of Ramadan, reminding myself of my duty to God and returning back to my spiritual self. Reminding myself of my purpose in this life and my mission to help others and raise awareness.
Sometimes, I feel like I am a vessel for God, to guide others through me. I’m so blessed and touched by all the amazing mercy and blessings and divine support, to the extent I can’t count them. “God Loves you” I keep hearing from others and I can’t fathom it all.
As a Shia Muslim, a minority in a minority when it comes to Muslims In Australia. When the majority of Muslims (even non-Muslims!) have negative views, misconceptions and even hatred towards your beliefs, even if the same religion, you don’t always feel comfortable to announce yourself as a Shia Muslim.
It’s not that I’m not proud of my Shia belief- I am and always greatful for my faith- but was always hesitant to raise awareness about disablity and hearing loss in my Shia Muslim community because it’s much more personal for me.
Now I’m not shy and working to ensure access and awareness is made across the whole Muslim Community in Sydney.
My Role as a deaf Muslim
This year, so much had happened in the Muslim community, especially for the deaf Muslim community, (See: http://silentsigns.net/2019/06/15/10-amazing-things-that-happened-for-deaf-muslims-in-sydney/#.XVVArOgzbIU)
Myself and some wonderful people are continueing to work with many different mosques and Islamic centres in Sydney to make them accessible for d/Deaf people. They include Sunni and Shia mosques, and while it shouldn’t matter because disability knows no bounds, it’s important that access is made available for everyone regardless of their belief.
God’s plan is far greater than my own expectations and many things have worked out better than I expected, some without my direct input. God bless all the amazing people and organisations working to #makemosquesaccessible.
My Role as a Woman
As a female, especially Muslim and Lebanese woman, sometimes it means facing unwanted attention when promoting and advocating and trying to create change in the community. When I’m sharing and raising awareness, I often get unwanted attention or topics of marriage open up.
It’s sad because marriage it’s important but also very taboo for Muslims with disabilities. Most of the conversations are men (from around the world) who want me to help them to find a deaf woman or Muslim woman to marry. Or ask to get to know me. I’m used to it as a Lebanese Muslim. But adding disability to the mix … I can’t deal with that right now.
Also as a woman- I have been advocating for years, and yes I’ve had small (but significant successes) but when men speak once, everyone fall at their feet. Sadly, people take more notice and seriousness when a man is speaking, especially in the Muslim community.
I’m grateful for the male allies who always stick up and make sure I’m included in the conversation. But silence and suppression of women’s voices continue to exist.
This is why my PhD is focusing on Muslim Women with Hearing Loss.
My role as a Muslim Woman in Australia
Additionally, as a Muslim Woman in Australia who wears the hijab, I am visible in the community and my identity as a Muslim Woman cannot be hidden.
I am proud of my Muslim identity and chose to wear the hijab. But Muslims in Australia, especially women, face many discrimintaion, misconceptions and misunderstandings due to the few extreme ideologies and individuals mistaken (and propragted by the media) to represent the whole, diversely different Muslim population.
I have not faced any major discrimination when out in public but this visble Muslim idenitity coupled with the invisblity that my deafness brings, sometimes gives me subconscious anxiety.
While I do not mind raising awareness and answering questions about my religion, I hate feeling always on egde, worried someone might say or do something. Constantly feeling like having to defend myself and my faith and having to apologise for things that I had no involvement.
My Role as a person with disability/ deafness
As a deaf person in a time of disability awareness and focus. It’s a great time for us in Australia. With NDIS and disability on focus recently, means more research, support and awareness is occurring which is great for people with disability.
It’s also great for me as a person with disability from a culturally and linguistically diverse background, and I was lucky to work on different community and national research projects on disability and be able to reflect that.
But we need more awareness, research and support raised for marginalised groups. More communities and organisations need to cater for people from diverse communities and more religious and cultural communities need to work on creating access and support for people with disability.
My Role as a (deaf) PhD Student
Right now, this is probably the hardest role for me.
As a PhD student with hearing loss or disability, it means I have to put in extra work and effort to ensure I have the right access and support with my education.
Apart from working on my research thesis and starting my ethics application, proposal and literature review, there are many external activities such as conferences, workshops, events and networking I need to do.
And the challenge is making sure they are accessible either by having Auslan interpreters or live-captioning available.
It means time spent talking and negotiating with event planners, Disabilty Support and service providers, having to prepare in advance and anxiety in making sure things go well.
If there is access, it’s great!
If there is no access, I cannot fully particiapte like everyone else.
It’s a learning journey for mysef and the univeristy, as there are not many students at the PhD level, and access and support requiements can change.
I am blessed to have supportive and amazing supervisors. This is really important when doing post-grad.
What this all means
Alhumdillah (all praise be to God) my position in this time and space is unique.
My role as a PhD student /researcher and person with disability and from a Muslim background is unique.
God certainly put me in a unique position to try and capture all of these amazing and different viewpoints in my research.
I will be using Auto-ethnography and Intersectionality theory in my research, to help reflect and document my personal and community expereinces, along with interviews to find out the expereinces of other Australian Muslim Women with hearing loss.
And I’m blessed to be on this journey and I’m proud of all my identities and who I am.
I know it’s going to be a challenging 4 years, especially as my topic is both personal and important.
But I know it is also important to look after my mental health and take time out when I feel too overwhelmed. Self care is very important.
I will try and keep you all up to date as I go.
Wish me luck!
For more information about my PhD topic: https://www.sprc.unsw.edu.au/education-training/postgraduate-research/current-students/wehbe/